from the excellent Cornish Zetetics blog
You hear a lot these days about ‘home working’, ‘networking’, ‘business hubs’ and flexibile work patterns.
And for reasons best known to themselves, Whitehall throw money at what are – to all intents and purposes – businesses that echo this buzz.
In Cornwall, this bizarre new metropolitan trend has spawned something of a parochial monster.
In a dramatic feat of smoke and mirrors, the powers that be in the Duchy have managed to mix this new flexi-work ethic into the affordable housing issue.
Sadly, and as is often the case, what lies behind this baffling political drive is a can of familiar ingredients; the well known political worms of nepotism, self-interest, and blatant cynicism.
At the core of the affordable housing world is the close working relationship between Planning and Housing portfolio holder Mark Kaczmarek and Affordable Housing Manager Louise Dwelly.
I’m reliably informed that Dwelly is fanatical about meeting the affordable housing targets and this new policy adds another string to that bow.
In the current climate where funding is at a premium achieving the targets will involve a lot of networking.
And who better than Louise Dwelly to facilitate that?
After all – her husband just happens to be Tim Dwelly of Penzance, who seems to have fingers in all sorts of pies, including the social housing sector.
Dwelly (47 and born in Cornwall) returned in 1996 after taking a degree in drama and working away.
In 2002 he set up Tim Dwelly in Partnership, ‘a leading (aren’t they all) economic development and regeneration consultancy’.
His clients comprise a worthy list of third sector organisations and government agencies.
In the meantime he’d founded the Digital Peninsula Network, servicing 200 small and medium Cornish enterprises.
This survived on a diet of European, DTI and RDA grants, no doubt both facilitating and benefiting from some feverish networking.
In 2003 Dwelly was one of the team that set up the Live/Work Network.
This brings together information on ‘high quality dual use live/work properties’, in other words combined homes and workplaces.
On its website Live/Work glows with all the self-righteous zeal of the missionary for a new way of living.
But basically, it’s all about renovating and building properties so that they become live/work places.
In the process this might just make them easier to get through planning.
So it’s not all touchy-feely stuff.
Tim Dwelly in Partnership is also consultant to a range of developers, including in Cornwall Poltair Homes and the up-market Rosemullion Homes.
Other clients include those sympathetic developers the Duchy of Cornwall as well as Wharfside Regeneration, a London-based property development company which uses an arts focus to ‘deliver innovative and sustainable regeneration’.
Dwelly’s background is the world of journalism, branching out from that into housing.
He’s a typical product of the late twentieth century digitised economy, in which manipulating language is more important than making things.
This is the world of David Cameron and George Eustice, of public relations, of branding, of public/private partnerships, of networking and hype.
Of course, it would be too cynical to see this as merely hype, as just an insubstantial new economy of signs and symbols wrapped around the old economy of market exploitation.
But nevertheless, it’s not easy to be sure where the one becomes the other. In the most recent (November 2009!) entry in his blog Dwelly ponders on the ‘end of the office economy’.
At face value this looks like radical stuff. The buzz word is homeworking, the future of the globe is at stake and ‘everyone is thinking low carbon’.
Great. A really green entrepreneur. A new clean, digital economy in a green peninsula to go perfectly with our new politics.
Or does it?
Anyone interested in purchasing a live/work property and joining the low carbon economy is directed to Live/Work Homes. Here we find the following
Gweal Pawl can be found in Redruth, ironically on the site of the now demolished hospital in which Dwelly was presumably born. Yet interestingly the town isn’t mentioned by name.
Live/Work Homes is run by Live/Work Network and their registered offices are one and the same.
On the one hand green rhetoric, on the other the same old spivs flogging second homes as ‘westcountry pads’ to up-country punters who’ll drive down in their ‘gas-guzzling’ 4 by 4s along that nice dual carriageway and then pop up to Newquay airport to get their next global lifestyle fix.
Exactly what is new about this?
It looks disturbingly like the old exploitation masquerading as something new. It’s greenwash pasted over a familiar drive for profits.
It’s the same old growth economy only this time one where ‘we can look forward to a … shift from staff with pensions to freelancers with contracts. The live/work economy in other words.’
It’s trapped on the same escalator of endless Cornish population growth. It signs up to the hopelessly contradictory and naïve vision of a ‘green’ Cornwall where unsustainable growth is just brushed under the carpet.
It’s that make-believe Cornwall where no limits exist in terms of resources or capacity,
Networking is a fearsome weapon in the hands of this entrepreneurial greenwash class. And it’s a weapon they have some skill in wielding.
This was seen in another of Tim Dwelly’s recent projects: he was one of the key players in the Future Penzance Facebook campaign and the True Friends of Penzance group that succeeded brilliantly in countering the Penzance Harbour campaign and making Penzance safe for continuing consultancies and spin-off contracts.
Having got the corporate designed Route A back on track they have no intention of stopping there. Penzance’s future is all mapped out.
This greenwash profit-making elite has been nurtured in the blurred spaces created by public/private partnerships and regeneration projects.
It thrives in the networking new world of Brand Cornwall and Eden Project type gormlessness.
The problems of networking lie in its unaccountability, in the way it flourishes out of sight in the dark corners of personal links and private favours, well away from democratic scrutiny.
The ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ culture of networking is the preferred strategy of a regeneration public-private project class which has gradually and without anyone really noticing extended its tentacles throughout Cornish government and society.
Mind out, or it’ll throttle us in its green, green grasp.